Catching My Breath- Cecilia Pang

“I’m not scared. I’m only tired,” I mutter to myself before giving into gravity.

All I can feel is relief the moment my body crashes onto the finish line. No more chaos, no more pain. —-

If death is knocking on my door, how am I supposed to respond? “Stop, STOP choking me!” I gasp into the darkness. After regaining my breath, the only response I receive is a sudden force jerking me up then down.

“Cecilia!” a voice calls out. Shoot! I must have slept past the alarm. I abruptly pull myself up but a creeping pain rises all the way across my back. My swollen eyes unwillingly focus about the bright room. My mother’s eyes squeeze with worry as she strokes away my tangled hair. “Don’t worry, she won’t remember a thing,” a soothing voice cuts in. And then I’m gone.

It’s been days lying in this hospital bed. Staring at the same clock that slowly chews the time, hesitantly tasting each second and holding dreadfully on to each bite. Every second that I watch results in a breath of pain. An escapable pain that bounds me to this bed while life goes on around me. As I try to focus on the positives, my mind wanders back to the doctor’s words: Her condition is a bit odd but not completely unexpected, however here on out there will be nothing that you can do to prevent a reoccurrence. It seemed unusual that a healthy person like me could have two lung collapses. And it was, even the doctors weren’t able to explain the reason. I didn’t have the voice or the energy to complain so I let my eyes do the talking. They constantly flickered to the blue wall in front of me where incessant shrieks would wake me up in the middle of the night or startle my daydreams. I was quickly became annoyed of all the echoing cries that added to my own pain. What could be possible going on next-door that was causing these unearthly sounds?

The sixth day began like any other, nothing too out of the ordinary. At 12am my nurse did my vitals and told me that a doctor would be seeing me in the morning! I quickly started to lose faith at noon when there wasn’t even a trace of a doctor. As the afternoon rolled by, I started breaking down. The dam that I had worked so hard to build up comes crumbling down and my tears trickle down my face. I don’t realize a nurse and a doctor have walked in. They tell me the good news that I’m recovering well and advised to start walking again to practice breathing. That night is the first time I get out of bed. Carrying my oxygen tank as I walk out the door, I trail my fingers against the wall for support. I make my way up and down the hall hesitantly as morphine clouds my vision. I am finally some what free! The sense of walking for the first time hits me again. And these first steps make me realize just how lucky I am because I had truly thought I wouldn’t get better. The spark of hope inside me still exists; a flickering flame within that continually gives me the strength to push on despite my body’s objections.

Hospital noises trail in the background and I am left to discover my home for the past few weeks. As I pass the room beside me, I linger outside peering in. This moment is when everything becomes clears and the realizations collapse into that single point of acknowledgement; time stops. My blurry vision focuses on the small window next to my door and I drop my head just as a new bundle of tears start to form. A happy yellow paper sticks neatly on the doorframe: Hazel: Radioactive: Treatment Begins. Authorized Personnes Only. The screaming sounds returned back into my mind and all I could feel was my heart heave with helplessness. What could I do to relieve her pain?

As I lift my head again, an epiphany blanketed over me, snapping me out of my self-pity. I, out of all people had the chance to put back the pieces of my life together and the ability to learn how to live again. I had only tasted the flavour of true fragility and unfairness of life for a slivering moment. Yet this little girl who lived on this earth for half of the time I have, has experienced more suffering than I could ever hope to imagine. When I turn around, I see window after window, child after child. What right did I have to complain when others were spoon-fed unfairness their whole life until they couldn’t eat anymore. These children never had the childhood I had got to experience. Like going to school, climbing trees, or even the opportunity to make mistakes just to learn.

Many times on my path of recovery I had stumbled and fallen. I thought I loved the feeling of the ground while lying down because it was so easy to give up, soothing almost. Perhaps it wasn’t the physical pain that exhausted me but a dawning realization that my previous efforts had gone to waste. It was like plunging to the bottom of a pool but not being able to the surface again despite the hard work. What was the point of living; when the moment and the things I had liven for, had given up on me? How was I supposed to achieve my dreams if I couldn’t even start? But that moment standing in the middle of the too bright hospital halls, I felt like an undeserved celebrity in the limelight. In my hands there were these opportunities to not only get better for myself but to work hard for the people who can’t. This time I would not let my self -doubt and fatigue get in the way of chasing my dreams. As I trailed back to my room, I knew that the day I stopped breathing was actually the moment I began my life of living.


I can do it. I take a deep breath cautiously and blow into the balloon. Come on, come on I chant in my mind as I breathe out. It’s been one week after my VATS surgery, and I haven’t been recovering as the doctors have hoped. I try again this time feeling the strain of my lungs. Breathing practice is the first small step of many if I want to go back to my normal running routines and eventually conquering my dream of making a difference in this world. I have to get better not for me but for those who can’t. The day I recover is the day that I make a vow to continue on a legacy that will target to help those who have lived the unexplainable or those who do not have the ability to chase their own dreams. I’m not doing this for myself, but for others. My weary steps may still falter when I walk now but my heart does not waver. Whenever I think of the future, I know I will be able to run someday or even fulfill my dreams. This excitement fuels me, fulfills me that I’ve changed. I truly understand that when life pushes me time and time back down, I can choose whether or not to pull myself back up, and keep on trying.

Smiling at how far I’ve come, I take a deep breath, “Many things were thrown at me beyond my control so I learned to appreciate hardships as well as blessings. I know everything happens for a reason, but I never understand the impact it would have on literally living everyday as my last. Losing a grip on my own life for the first time, taught me to be strong not just for myself, but for the people that are like me, the people who feel that they are forgotten about. It was hard to get back on my feet again especially missing out on everything I loved. However, whenever I had felt like giving up, I remembered that nothing happens that we’re not strong enough to handle. I focused on the big dreams I had, and I knew I had to get better. I kept imagining, kept planning, kept reaching for my dreams. My lung collapses were just small obstacles with many more that will get in the way of me trying to make the world a better place, but it will not stop me. Since with faith, hard work, trust in myself, and those around me, there will be no boundaries. I will keep believing because the world can and will be a better place.” My classmates clap as I make my way back to my seat. I did it, I’ve finally moved on.

The last hundred metres are closing in. Sweat beads at my forehead as I concentrate on the rhythm of music pumping through my head. I count the last thumps of my shoes hitting the pavement. Adrenaline rushes through my veins faster than ever as I, not my body, am left pushing myself to the end. My sustained energy soon flutters away, my stray hairs sticking to my sweat washed skin. As I take a glance at the sky the golden horizon casts its glowing smile reassuring me that I will finish. As my Nikes thud to the finish line, I imagine streams of ribbon flowing behind me. I shiver with excitement as light zephyrs dance on my back. You would want to run forever. My shirt uncomfortably sticks to my skin, my ears pound with the beat of my heart, and I’m left to catch my breath. I can feel a wash of relief and my senses coming alive already. I curl my toes against the soft covers of my bed, and slowly sink into my dreams of what the marathon will be like tomorrow.
What seemed to be my finishing line was in reality the beginning of a whole new race.

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